Robin Dunbar, Oxford University professor of evolutionary psychology, decided to investigate if large social circles online actually correlated to larger friend networks in real life.
According to his research, Dunbar found that humans are still cognitively restrained as to how large their actual friend group is, despite their social media prowess. Data was provided by several thousand subjects ages 18 to 65 who shared how many friends they had on Facebook (the average was 150), as well as how many “genuine” friends they could depend on in real life, say, in the event of a crisis.
As it turned out, people with more Facebook friends did not necessarily have more close friends in real life, but rather more “loosely defined acquaintances.”
In fact, one sample of the study showed that only about 27.6% of our Facebook friends would be there for us in a time of need. That’s only just over 1 in 4.
At the end of the day, a friendship boils down to time invested in the relationship, and simply adding a friend on Facebook or hitting the Like button once in a while may not constitute the emotional bond that has to exist between two humans in real life.
As Dunbar explained, “Friendships, in particular, have a natural decay rate in the absence of contact, and social media may well function to slow down the rate of decay. However, that alone may not be sufficient to prevent friendships eventually dying naturally if they are not occasionally reinforced by face-to-face interaction.”
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